News

Rep. Anna Eshoo supports Atherton's fiscal study of Menlo Park Fire Protection District

 

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, backs Atherton's plans to evaluate the costs and benefits of services provided to the town's property owners by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, according a letter Ms. Eshoo sent Oct. 27 to Atherton Mayor Elizabeth Lewis.

In the letter, Rep. Eshoo said she supports the town's efforts "to examine what services the Town receives, and what the Town pays for those services, including the Fire District."

While Rep. Eshoo wrote that she is "a longtime supporter and advocate of our first responders locally and nationally," she called the town's proposed study "a prudent undertaking."

"Our mutual constituents, through their elected officials should be able to have any and all information as to how their tax dollars are spent and what they receive for them," she wrote.

The letter says that she finds it "fully appropriate" for not only Atherton, but also Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and San Mateo County "to either jointly or separately" study the fire district's revenues, services provided and costs.

The letter also urges civility. "I'm exceedingly proud of the high level of civility that is the hallmark of our congressional district, and I trust that as you and others work with the Fire district to obtain the information requested of them, that all parties will uphold this great tradition."

Barbara Wood

Comments

15 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Anna Eshoo may have acted hastily on this issue, like a knee jerk reaction. Why do I say this? It is my understanding that she did not take time to STUDY the issue at all. It's basically a political pay back, that is, you scratch my back and I'll scratch your back. Favors being reciprocated. There's often two sides to a story. Asking staff first to look into it would have been the prudent thing to do. To the best of of knowledge, this was NOT done. Although what her letter said was boiler plate, that is transparency is a good thing, the UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES of doing this study is unknown. Frankly, to spend $50,000 or more of taxpayer's hard earned money, on "the bridge that goes no where" seems to be a typical congressional approach. This study may be similar.


27 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I met with Cong. Eshoo after she wrote her letter but before that letter had been received by the Fire Board.

Clearly she and I have different perspectives. As a wise old Washington colleague once told me - Where you stand depends on where you sit.

She is concerned with the optics of local jurisdictions having a disagreement while I am concerned with the facts of that disagreement.

She represents Menlo Park and Atherton while I represent Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto.

The Fire District has a long and strong tradition of complete transparency and I am sure that the Fire District will continue to honor that tradition.


11 people like this
Posted by In Fire Deaprtment Area
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 31, 2016 at 6:19 pm

Rep Eschoo should be more concerned about the Clinton e mails scandal than worrying about the MP Fire Department. Everyone likes the job that they're doing for our entire community. I went to their web site; more information than Atherton provides for their community. Can she name one complaint about the department......NO. Two years ago the citizens of the department approved the Gann Proposal, to raise the fire department's spending limit. Atherton needs to take care of their own problems, like providing a workable-new police and civic center.


6 people like this
Posted by moveon
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 1, 2016 at 7:16 am

Pay for the study, look at the numbers that the FD admits they cannot supply for you, and have the discussion about how much mpfd costs each and every one of us. Then lets move on. Thanks Atherton for doing this service for all of us. Dont worry about the money, im sure mpfd pays way more than that for each of those shiney reports they bank their transparancy on. Anna you rock for supporting the right decision.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2016 at 7:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"have the discussion about how much mpfd costs EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US"

That is an easy question to answer.

There are about 90,000 residents in the MPFPD (plus another 20,000k?? who come into the district to work or go to school).

The MPFPD's property tax revenues for 2016/17 will be $39 million.

The MPFPD cost per resident is $433.

Cost of the above study = ZERO because the information is all on the MPCSD web site:
Web Link


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2016 at 8:21 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

One more City bows out of this misguided effort as East Palo Alto City Manager states the City has no desire to join in with Atherton since, similar to Menlo Park, they don't see the Towns issues as matching their own.

You bet - Atherton wants MPFPD property tax money from Menlo Park and East Palo Alto to go into a "revenue sharing agreement" that would go to the Town of Atherton.

From the Atherton Town Manager's Staff Report:

"the City Council could consider the following:
1) Sit down with the Fire District to discuss the findings and discuss ways to address fiscal equity issues in Atherton (property tax revenue sharing agreements, …”

Atherton's idea of "fiscal equity" is to take MPFPD money/services from Menlo Park and East Palo Alto and put it into the Town's coffers. No wonder Cong Eshoo, who represents Atherton but not East Palo Alto thinks the Atherton study is a great idea.


10 people like this
Posted by Broken record
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 1, 2016 at 8:53 am

Peter, you keep grasping at the same straws and pushing out the same info. I think it is plain for all to see why Atherton would like their own study with the poor information example you gave above of $433 per resident. It's just plain flippant and you should be ashamed.

But MP will soon see the light when they get fed up from those poor examples of MPFD "transparency" and join in the excercise.


26 people like this
Posted by Troublesome
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Nov 1, 2016 at 9:00 am

@PC - There you go again trying to spin things out of context. The Town Manager’s full report is available on the Town’s website here:

Web Link

Despite how you present it, you seem to be missing the first part that says “Sit down with the Fire District to discuss…"

The report says that the Town has asked for Town-specific information and the District said it was unable to provide it. The Town still wants to get the information. You say it’s on the District’s website. Indeed it is, I’ve looked, but it doesn’t appear to be in the format the Town seems to be asking for it. So, they’ve moved on to get the data into a format that they can use to evaluate it specifically for Atherton. What’s the big deal with that? No cost to fire district to do so.

You say their trying to take money away. Doesn’t seem that way. Seems like the Town Manager is pointing out what options the Town Council might have IF they want to do something about. To me, as a member of a Corporate Board, that’s what I would want my CEO to do. Give me options. Reading the staff report, none of those options are vetted or in concrete and the Town Manager is suggesting that the consultant look at them in detail and that ultimately the community gets to decide. I am part of that community. At meetings the Council clearly said that they are not interested in detachment or taking money from the District. You can watch them online.

Our Mayor then went one step further and sent a formal letter to the District asking for the information and the District’s help in putting it together. They get a formal, aggressive, legalese letter back from the District telling the Mayor to look on their website and that they have no intent of participating in any way. Fine. Drop it and move on.

You say above that it costs $433 per person for fire services in Atherton. Google says the 2013 population of Atherton is 7,159 so that’s $3.09 million a year for costs and $11.8 million (from the District website) in revenue. As an Atherton resident, it concerns me that I pay nearly 400% more for the service. Your excuse is that’s just the way it is due to Proposition 13. As my elected representative to the Fire Board that’s your response? Or that if you do anything to even hint at looking at it there’s a threat that money or services are going to be taken from some other community? Really?

I’m siding with my elected council members on this one and going to make my decision on election day November 2017 and vote someone else onto my Fire Board that is truly concerned with me and my issues. I am a constituent of the Fire District AND an Atherton resident and the Town provides far more services to me than the Fire District.


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2016 at 9:40 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Town wants to know how much the District "spends" in Atherton.

The District provides all the people in the District with the same level of service and does not allocate its spending by political boundaries.

I asked the Town how much it spends in my Atherton neighborhood and the Town manager replied: "“First, unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the Town will be able to provide a direct and detailed answer to your query since, the Town, like many general service public agencies simply does not provide services on a parcel by parcel level/subscription service basis."

So the District and the Town's accounting methods are the same.

**********


5 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 1, 2016 at 12:53 pm

I'd like to know what the trigger was for this concern. This is not a new issue as Mr. Spencer pointed out in another post. What was the huge concern that prompted such a blow up that has warranted a study?


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I'd like to know what the trigger was for this concern. "

Facts:
1 - The Town needs to replace its police station and admin buildings
2 - The Town has not funded reserves for that new construction
3 - The Town Council put a measure on the ballot for the residents to approve a new town center but promised the residents that no ATHERTON property tax or parcel tax money would be used to build the new town center
4 - The Town has attempted to solicit donations to build the town center
5 - The Town asked the Fire District to contribute some of the Fire District's property tax funds (which the Town said were not included in its promise not to use ATHERTON property tax funds) to build the town center.
6 - The Fire District declined to provide the requested funding as there was no Fire District mission justification for such an expenditure.
***************

Speculation:
In my opinion the Town then decided to do whatever it could to get funds from the Fire District. Hence the focus on the perceived "fiscal equity" and the need for a study to verify the exact amount of that perceived "fiscal equity"so that the Council could "1) Sit down with the Fire District to discuss the findings and discuss ways to address fiscal equity issues in Atherton (property tax revenue sharing agreements, …”

I was asked why the town did not look to the school districts for funding where there is an even greater "fiscal equity" issue since many Atherton children attend private schools. It turns out that the school districts don't have any money so that "fiscal equity" is a dry hole. The Fire District however has prudently created and funded reserves to replace its fire stations and equipment and to address its future pension liabilities and so it was a good target.


1 person likes this
Posted by moveon
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 1, 2016 at 7:45 pm

@PC wrote 5 - The Town asked the Fire District to contribute some of the Fire District's property tax funds (which the Town said were not included in its promise not to use ATHERTON property tax funds) to build the town center.

I believe what the town asked was if the MPFD would like the opportunity to expand a station into the plan for the new building. Perhaps an EOC center or other use? Of course if they did, they could pay the associated costs for this. So whats so wrong with that? In the end MPFD declined. Case closed.

How does that translate into the Town having some sort of vendetta to get MPFD money. Peter, I don't think youre being honest here. You're painting a picture of the EVIL town of Atherton to smoke screen something you, the board and even the chief don't want looked at. I think you are attacking the town (your own town) to keep some sort of embarrassing information from being brought to light.

And smoke sir is not transparent. Please Atherton, perform the study.It is correct to say this is getting ugly but its not youre doing, its the MPFD and their blog dog making the mountain out of the mole hill. We dont buy their goofy logic of purported facts.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2016 at 8:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I don't think youre being honest here. You're painting a picture of the EVIL town of Atherton to smoke screen something you, the board and even the chief don't want looked at. I think you are attacking the town (your own town) to keep some sort of embarrassing information from being brought to light."

No.

Feel free to disclose whatever you feel the Fire District is attempting to hide. The Fire District has nothing to hide.


Like this comment
Posted by moveon
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 1, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Definition: to hide:
1.put or keep out of sight; conceal from the view or notice of others.

Well I guess if they all knew, they wouldnt need to ask the questions. You continue to deny this point. I'm not going to go through the questions again, you know them well. I'm tired of the game of circles.I dont care about your personel neighborhood, the sewer district or the other excuses (smoke) used to evade the questions.

But it looks like we'll all find out soon. tic-tock


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2016 at 8:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" You continue to deny this point."

What is the point?

Or are you just engaged in mindless rhetoric?


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2016 at 9:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I’m siding with my elected council members on this one and going to make my decision on election day November 2017 and vote someone else onto my Fire Board"

That is exactly what elections are for in a democratic system.

But recognize that Atherton residents have less than 10% of the votes in the Fire District. And that I have been the candidate with the most votes in the last three elections from both Atherton residents as well as from District residents.

The Atherton Town Council's narrow self interests will not trump the interests of the entire Fire District.


8 people like this
Posted by Troublesome
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Nov 1, 2016 at 10:08 pm

@PC

Well...I guess you told me.

And...instead of attempting to reach to an obviously concerned constituent, you proceeded to tell me that my vote doesn't matter by pontificating on how little Atherton itself matters to the District and how you got the most votes.

Well Bravo. Time for a change at the Fire District. And if the rest of the Board doesn't step up on this issue...perhaps it's time for change all around.


8 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2016 at 11:03 pm

Not sure I understand the difficulty the Chief and the Board have with supplying the information requested by the Town Council.

Menlo Park Fire is dispatched by the County of San Mateo. The County knows the addresses of District's calls. The addresses include the city.

The County's dispatch logs are available in the internet. Here is a list of calls for Menlo Park Fire in October in Atherton.

(We removed the street numbers to protect privacy.)

MNF162750011 10/1/2016 9:33:33 AM (10 min) Atherton Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E4
MNF162750019 10/1/2016 3:22:52 PM (2 min) Valparaiso Av, Atherton [ Fire alarm - water flow ] E6
MNF162750022 10/1/2016 8:21:46 PM (21 min) Acacia Dr, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E1
MNF162760009 10/2/2016 12:19:09 PM (10 min) Barry La, Atherton [ Public assist ] E3
MNF162760014 10/2/2016 5:13:38 PM (19 min) Watkins Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162770005 10/3/2016 4:15:19 AM (40 min) Tuscaloosa Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162780020 10/4/2016 8:11:49 PM (12 min) Tuscaloosa Av, Atherton [ Full assignment response ] BC2, E3, E4, E6, PT1
MNF162780025 10/4/2016 9:22:24 PM (35 min) Walsh Rd, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E4
MNF162800003 10/6/2016 1:51:11 AM (26 min) Almendral Av, Atherton [ Odor investigation ] E3
MNF162810004 10/7/2016 7:35:56 AM (19 min) Heather Dr, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E1
MNF162820011 10/8/2016 10:52:02 AM (2 min) Encinal Av, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] E1
MNF162820018 10/8/2016 6:00:26 PM (18 min) Austin Av, Atherton [ Public assist ] E3
MNF162830004 10/9/2016 1:05:49 AM (33 min) El Camino Real, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E6
MNF162840008 10/10/2016 6:06:25 AM (22 min) Valparaiso Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E6
MNF162840015 10/10/2016 1:21:39 PM (1 min) Eleanor Dr, Atherton [ Fire alarm - smoke detector ] E4
MNF162850003 10/11/2016 7:02:29 AM (22 min) Isabella Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162850012 10/11/2016 10:23:28 AM (39 min) Tuscaloosa Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162850016 10/11/2016 12:58:20 PM (9 min) Melanie La, Atherton [ Public assist ] E4
MNF162850020 10/11/2016 5:53:46 PM (45 min) Ashfield Rd/El Camino Real, Atherton [ Traffic accident ] BC1, E3, E6, PT1
MNF162860019 10/12/2016 7:40:02 PM (23 min) Rittenhouse Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162860020 10/12/2016 9:27:43 PM (24 min) Valparaiso Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E6
MNF162870011 10/13/2016 1:31:32 PM (30 min) Selby La, Atherton [ Traffic accident ] BC2, E3, E4, PT1
MNF162870017 10/13/2016 5:46:58 PM (18 min) Watkins Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E5
MNF162870019 10/13/2016 7:13:42 PM (1 min) Virginia La, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E5
MNF162870020 10/13/2016 8:06:58 PM (26 min) Middlefield Rd, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E1
MNF162880004 10/14/2016 3:04:55 AM (26 min) Melanie La, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] E4
MNF162880022 10/14/2016 1:35:43 PM (15 min) Sutherland Dr, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] E4
MNF162880004 10/14/2016 3:04:55 AM (26 min) Melanie La, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] E4
MNF162880022 10/14/2016 1:35:43 PM (15 min) Sutherland Dr, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] E4
MNF162890004 10/15/2016 2:46:26 AM (47 min) Jennings La, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E5
MNF162890012 10/15/2016 10:57:35 AM (12 min) Almendral Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162890013 10/15/2016 12:58:42 PM (38 min) El Camino Real, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E6
MNF162890015 10/15/2016 3:25:42 PM (35 min) El Camino Real, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E6
MNF162890017 10/15/2016 4:12:26 PM (10 min) Fletcher Dr, Atherton [ Fire alarm - smoke detector ] E4
MNF162890026 10/15/2016 11:23:52 PM (28 min) Adam Wy, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162900004 10/16/2016 11:10:35 AM (6 min) Broad Acres Rd, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] E4
MNF162910001 10/17/2016 1:34:08 AM (30 min) Lowery Dr, Atherton [ Public assist - water problem ] PT1
MNF162920021 10/18/2016 6:29:52 PM (27 min) Heritage Ct, Atherton [ Public assist ] E5
MNF162930006 10/19/2016 7:11:20 AM (13 min) Atherton Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162930020 10/19/2016 3:44:20 PM (22 min) Parker Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162930029 10/19/2016 8:32:41 PM (40 min) Elena Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162940011 10/20/2016 9:03:49 AM (41 min) Lowery Dr, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E5
MNF162940015 10/20/2016 10:43:16 AM (29 min) Walsh Rd, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E4
MNF162940016 10/20/2016 11:04:37 AM (14 min) El Camino Real, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] BC1, E3, E5, E6, PT1
MNF162940018 10/20/2016 11:30:29 AM (10 min) Selby La, Atherton [ Public assist - water problem ] E3
MNF162950002 10/21/2016 1:39:19 AM (12 min) Walsh Rd, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] E4
MNF162950008 10/21/2016 8:16:54 AM (39 min) Encinal Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E1
MNF162950029 10/21/2016 9:23:45 PM (9 min) El Camino Real, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] BC1, E3, E4, E6, PT1
MNF162960002 10/22/2016 2:42:07 AM (4 min) Rebecca La, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E6
MNF162960003 10/22/2016 7:05:50 AM (21 min) Middlefield Rd, Atherton [ Fire alarm ] E1
MNF162960011 10/22/2016 3:35:11 PM (3 min) Almendral Av, Atherton [ Fire alarm - smoke detector ] E3
MNF162970010 10/23/2016 11:45:31 AM (35 min) Douglas Wy, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E6
MNF162970026 10/23/2016 9:51:22 PM (26 min) S Gate St, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162990002 10/25/2016 3:47:33 AM (38 min) Elena AV, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E3
MNF162990006 10/25/2016 9:11:15 AM (15 min) Barry La, Atherton [ Odor investigation ] E3
MNF162990007 10/25/2016 11:02:11 AM (18 min) Heritage Ct, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E5
MNF162990014 10/25/2016 1:10:34 PM (22 min) Belbrook Wy, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E4
MNF163000013 10/26/2016 9:55:09 AM (14 min) El Camino Real, Atherton [ Fire alarm - smoke detector ] BC1, E1, E3, E6, PT1
MNF163010013 10/27/2016 3:32:37 PM (86 min) Elena Av, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E10
MNF163010014 10/27/2016 3:34:11 PM (16 min) Middlefield Rd/Ringwood Av, Atherton [ Traffic accident pd request c3 ] E77
MNF163010022 10/27/2016 9:08:44 PM (71 min) Selby La, Atherton [ Public assist ] E3
MNF163020002 10/28/2016 12:04:32 AM (16 min) Oakwood Blvd/Selby La, Atherton [ Tree down ] E3
MNF163030001 10/29/2016 1:46:06 AM (13 min) Isabella Av, Atherton [ Fire alarm - smoke detector ] E3
MNF163040017 10/30/2016 3:34:27 PM (23 min) Eleanor Dr, Atherton [ Fire alarm - smoke detector ] E4
MNF163050009 10/31/2016 8:35:32 AM (28 min) El Camino Real, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E6
MNF163050017 10/31/2016 6:39:42 PM (20 min) Callado Wy, Atherton [ Medical aid ] E4

Why are the Chief and the Board saying this information isn't available?


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 2, 2016 at 6:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The County's dispatch logs are available in the internet."

Precisely!


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 2, 2016 at 6:57 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

When I asked the Town for an accounting of its revenues from my neighborhood the Town told me:

"- the Town does not have a list of parcels and each's respective Tax Rate Area (TRA); nor does the Town aggregate and maintain property tax data - that’s the County. The proper request for that data request would likely be them. That’s a challenge for us on a number of fronts as we try to get to your data request. To get that data, we’d have to go to the County Tax Collector (website) and enter each parcel and determine exactly which Tax Rate Area it references. This is a publicly accessible database accessible here:

Web Link."

Similarly the County operates fire dispatch and "The proper request for that data request would likely be them."


4 people like this
Posted by Troublesome
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 7:18 am

@PC

So clearly, the data is out there; but not in a format or with the analysis that the Town Council wants. The District, albeit aggressively, said they are not cooperating other than to provide what they are legally obligated to provide. The Town Council wants more and different analysis. As @moveon says - MOVE ON.

Your constant arguing and speculation is continuing to fuel a controversy that doesn't need to exist. And really, makes me wonder more and more and more whether there is something the District doesn't want discussed. I really don't know what that is nor do I want to speculate. But @PC, you are a fire board member that I no longer trust to represent my interests as an Atherton resident and a constituent of the fire district. You told me plainly that my vote doesn't matter nor do the votes of Atherton residents. If there are other members of the fire board that are following your lead, and there seems to be, then Atherton is doing the right thing.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 2, 2016 at 7:37 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" But @PC, you are a fire board member that I no longer trust to represent my interests as an Atherton resident and a constituent of the fire district."

That is exactly what elections are for in a democratic system.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 2, 2016 at 9:06 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

In reviewing all of the above comments I realize that many posters have forgotten what is Atherton's unanswered question.

The unanswered question posed by the Mayor is "What is the Fire District's cost for providing basic fire fire protection and emergency response services within the jurisdictional boundaries of the Town of Atherton?"

The Fire District's response is that it does not have that data and it does not collect that data since the Fire District operates, budgets and accounts for expenditures only on a District wide basis.

The Fire District cannot give the Town information that the Fire District does not possess.

All the information that the Fire District has is and has been posted on its web site. Nothing is being hidden.

********************
As an Atherton resident I would like to know:
1 - How the Town intends to answer that question and what assumptions it will need to make to get an answer,
2 - How much it will cost to get that answer,
3 - What could the Town do with the answer to that question when it gets it?
4 - Given what the Town could and could not do with the answer is it worth the time, money and furor that will be required to get the answer?


3 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 2, 2016 at 9:34 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

'In the letter, Rep. Eshoo said she supports the town's efforts "to examine what services the Town receives, and what the Town pays for those services, including the Fire District."'

My understanding is that the Town pays nothing for the services. Property owners of the MPFPD pay for the services through a fraction of the 1% general tax. Details of the incremental allocation of that 1% tax can be obtained from the County Controllers office.


8 people like this
Posted by Bart Spencer
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 3, 2016 at 7:14 am

Bart Spencer is a registered user.

As a former Fire Director, my knowledge is that the Town doesn't spend or contribute any money to the Fire District; neither does Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, nor the unincorporated areas inside the FD boundaries. Atherton seems to be alone in its questioning. It seems that City Hall is championing this matter. I have talked to residents in the Town and most seem to be in agreement that they are satisfied with the services provided and that they pay taxes for which they don't always receive equitable services, such as couples who have no children paying for schools (elementary, high school and community college), recreational fees, libraries, and so on.

When the question arises what is the cost of service, the answer needs to include the services that Engine 1,3,4,5,6; Truck 1, and Battalion 1 cost for some or all coverage for the Town. The answer cannot be based solely on calls but being available for calls. Much like you don't base police services on calls but being available to respond. Also, remember that the FD responds to much more than medical and fire calls; there are several public service calls such as car lock outs or being lock out of the house, child locked in car, lift assist (putting someone back into bed), and even the occasional cat in a tree -- yes this does occur. The FD is an all service agency that provides many services including CERT and emergency preparedness.

So if an analysis is done, make sure it accounts for all services provided even if each resident doesn't take advantage of them. As I have indicated in previous statements, if the Town is questioning the FD, shouldn't they also be questioning all taxing agencies?


5 people like this
Posted by moveon
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 3, 2016 at 7:57 am

@bartspencer. Good points.

I firmly believe that the Atherton CC just wants to look at the information in a way that makes sense to them (as Atherton residents and recipients of services) and be able to inform all of the residents of the Town as to how much this services costs them. They do that for water, sewer, animal control, etc. There is no doubt that Atherton taxpayers pay more per capita. But they want to make sure everyone knows what that number is (something the MPFD board seems embarrassed to supply). It certainly isnt $433, as @PC has dared to supply Atherton taxpayers as the MPFD official answer. I don't think any of them would want to start up their own FD, even given the expected inequities.

Let the study happen, let the discussion take place. The MPFD will be FINE, although through this exercise their board and chief have lost my faith in them to make good decisions and work well with other elected officials in a professional manner, and their times will all come.


16 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 3, 2016 at 9:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"There is no doubt that Atherton taxpayers pay more per capita. But they want to make sure everyone knows what that number is (something the MPFD board seems embarrassed to supply). It certainly isnt $433, as @PC has dared to supply Atherton taxpayers as the MPFD official answer."

You are not paying attention - the amount that Atherton tax payers PAY in property taxes to the Fire District ($11,812,734 in 2015/16) has been posted on the Forum many times and is also in the Town's staff reports - information provided by the Fire District long ago.

Web Link

The $433 figure is the average COST PER PERSON of Fire District services for each of the Fire District 90k plus residents.

The only thing that is embarrassing is long time posters who cannot read.


2 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2016 at 12:02 pm

The title of this newspaper article is "Rep. Anna Eshoo supports Atherton's fiscal study of Menlo Park Fire Protection District". I'd like to ask:

1) Why didn't she disclose the fact that she is a former Atherton City Council member?

2) Why didn't she disclose that she was a former member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, when suggesting the County get involved too.

3) Why didn't she disclose that her District did NOT include East Palo Alto, even though she recommended they jump on the band wagon too?

4) Why didn't she disclose the fact that she had NOT done any research, nor did she talk with the Fire District, nor did did she ask her staff to dig a little deeper, before hastily writing the letter.

Frankly, I respect Congressmember Eshoo's opinion and the many good things she does for the community throughout the year. Yet, involving herself in this LOCAL ISSUE was totally inappropriate.

I'd like her to send a second letter apologizing, although politicians rarely do that.


2 people like this
Posted by moveon
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 4, 2016 at 7:06 am

@PC you wrote:""have the discussion about how much mpfd costs EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US"

That is an easy question to answer.

There are about 90,000 residents in the MPFPD (plus another 20,000k?? who come into the district to work or go to school).

The MPFPD's property tax revenues for 2016/17 will be $39 million.

The MPFPD cost per resident is $433.

You successfully answered the MPFD cost per person. That has little to do with the Atherton resident cost per person (4x that) or what the actual cost is to provide service to the residents of Atherton. If not, a consultant can. OK, here's where you go into your sewer/schools spin. Questions for another time. Can you answer this or not?


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2016 at 7:20 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire District PRIDES itself on providing the SAME level of service to every resident so the figure you keep asking for is the figure I keep giving $433/per person - whether that person is rich or poor, old or young, lives East or West of 101

Unfortunately Atherton wishes to reduce that same level of service to all Fire District residents policy either by "property tax revenue sharing agreements, additional service levels, provision of additional fire-related infrastructure, development of local emergency response programs, etc." - all going just to Atherton residents.

All of these proposed Atherton actions would result in requiring the Fire District to LOWER its service levels to Menlo Park and to East Palo. That will NOT happen on my watch.


1 person likes this
Posted by Broken record
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 4, 2016 at 11:22 am

Reading all of this I see a new slant.

Perhaps the MPFD board looks as the request for analysis as an oppertunity. If they can make it seem like athertons request for simple information and a desire to study what it means is a threat to start their own FD and leave MP and EPA behind ( right, perhaps gold fire trucks), then the next election cycle they can all stand on the stump and say"vote for me, I saved you from evil Atherton".
Sound improbable, I would think so too until @PC stated how little he cares about the small Atherton vote anyhow. Hmmmm


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.




My Oath of Office (I, Peter Carpenter, do solemnly swear that I will
support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully
discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter and during such time as I hold the office of Fire Board Director.) doesn't say anything about worrying about the next election.

It does say everything about serving the needs of ALL of the residents of the Fire District.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Just transmitted:

November 4, 2016
George Roderick’s, City Manager Town of Atherton
In order to assist the Town with its proposed fiscal review of the Fire District, we are delivering the following important items in hard copy to your office:
1. Our current budget
2. Our most recent comprehensive audit report
3. Our 2015 Standards of Cover Assessment Report
4. Our tax rate area (TRA) information for the Town
5. Our Emergency incident information specifically for Atherton
As part of our commitment to transparency and good governance, I wanted to make sure that if you are not able to find something on our web-site, please let me know and I will see if we have it readily available in hard copy form.
If a requested item cannot be found on our web-site or does not exist in presentable format in our files, and takes a reasonable amount of staff time to be prepared, we will provide you with that data at our earliest convenience. The emergency call data took approximately 4 hours of staff time to research and prepare.
If your request will take a substantial amount of staff time or require additional work by one of our consultants, we will advise you as to those time frames and potential costs. This may include data that has to be tallied by hand. In the case that the requested data does not exist in any form in our records we will notify you. You may then, at your option, decide to collect the data yourselves or request that we engage staff or consultants, at your cost, to collect the data for you.
In order to make this as efficient as possible we would request that you prepare a schedule containing a comprehensive list and description of all of the data that you would like from the District. If we need clarifications on your request, I would suggest a face to face meeting with management of both jurisdictions and knowledgeable staff to be certain there is no confusion or wasted effort.

We would also ask that the Town allow us to review and offer suggestions for a scope of services from any consultants retained to conduct a Fire Services Fiscal Review.

Please let me know if you find these suggestions useful and would like to proceed in the manner suggested,

Thank you
Harold Schapelhouman, Fire Chief


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Alarm Date Between {10/01/15} And {10/01/16} and
City = "Atherton "
mpfd
Menlo Fire Monthly Report (Summary)
Incident Type Count Pct of Incidents
1 Fire
113 Cooking fire, confined to container 2 0.38%
130 Mobile property (vehicle) fire, Other 1 0.19%
131 Passenger vehicle fire 1 0.19%
140 Natural vegetation fire, Other 1 0.19%
143 Grass fire 1 0.19%
151 Outside rubbish, trash or waste fire 1 0.19%
162 Outside equipment fire 1 0.19%
8 1.54%
3 Rescue & Emergency Medical Service Incident
311 Medical assist, assist EMS crew 4 0.77%
320 Emergency medical service, other 18 3.48%
321 EMS call, excluding vehicle accident with 193 37.33%
322 Motor vehicle accident with injuries 12 2.32%
323 Motor vehicle/pedestrian accident (MV Ped) 4 0.77%
324 Motor Vehicle Accident with no injuries 8 1.54%
331 Lock-in (if lock out , use 511 ) 1 0.19%
353 Removal of victim(s) from stalled elevator 2 0.38%
242 46.80%
4 Hazardous Condition (No Fire)
400 Hazardous condition, Other 2 0.38%
410 Combustible/flammable gas/liquid condition, 1 0.19%
412 Gas leak (natural gas or LPG) 3 0.58%
440 Electrical wiring/equipment problem, Other 2 0.38%
441 Heat from short circuit (wiring), 2 0.38%
442 Overheated motor 1 0.19%
443 Breakdown of light ballast 1 0.19%
444 Power line down 3 0.58%
445 Arcing, shorted electrical equipment 1 0.19%
16 3.09%
5 Service Call
500 Service Call, other 7 1.35%
510 Person in distress, Other 6 1.16%
520 Water problem, Other 11 2.12%
522 Water or steam leak 12 2.32%
531 Smoke or odor removal 1 0.19%
5311 Smoke or odor investigation 18 3.48%
542 Animal rescue 4 0.77%
10/31/16 08:10 Page 1
Alarm Date Between {10/01/15} And {10/01/16} and
City = "Atherton "
mpfd
Menlo Fire Monthly Report (Summary)
Incident Type Count
Pct of
Incidents
5 Service Call
550 Public service assistance, Other 13 2.51%
5501 Public service, Tree Down no emergency 3 0.58%
553 Public service 10 1.93%
554 Assist invalid 18 3.48%
103 19.92%
6 Good Intent Call
600 Good intent call, Other 6 1.16%
6001 Good intent call, Phone or Cable lines 1 0.19%
611 Dispatched & cancelled en route 29 5.60%
6112 Dispatched & canceled en route - Alarm 17 3.28%
622 No Incident found on arrival at dispatch 2 0.38%
55 10.63%
7 False Alarm & False Call
700 False alarm or false call, Other 33 6.38%
730 System malfunction, Other 2 0.38%
731 Sprinkler activation due to malfunction 1 0.19%
733 Smoke detector activation due to 7 1.35%
735 Alarm system sounded due to malfunction 7 1.35%
736 CO detector activation due to malfunction 1 0.19%
740 Unintentional transmission of alarm, Other 5 0.96%
743 Smoke detector activation, no fire - 11 2.12%
744 Detector activation, no fire - 6 1.16%
745 Alarm system activation, no fire - 20 3.86%
93 17.98%
Total Incident Count: 517
10/31/16


3 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 4, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Two adages come to mind:

a) Don't fix things that aren't broken, and
b) Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.

For example: The Menlo Park Elementary School District also contains parcel fragments of Atherton and and Menlo Park. What happens should the City of Atherton decide to apply the same strategy they propose for the Fire District, to the MP Elementary School District?


5 people like this
Posted by moveon
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 4, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Wow, that looks like $21,000+ per call for Atherton residents. I would suppose that is pretty expensive fire service, but perhaps not. If that number comes from the 500 annual calls for Atherton, you could say well you have to average in the calls for MP and EPA too. Dont have that info, but could be maybe 5000 calls total. $29,000.000 divided by 5000 comes to about $5800 for each and every call.

Seems more reasonable, but wow, I had no idea a FD costs that much. I would like to know how that stands regionally, statewide and nationally. Just delving into the issue here, but does the fire board look at these costs? Is these ever a time where they might say we're overfunded and would consider a taxpayer reimbursement? or do they just use this money to buy new stuff and grow possibly unnecessarily?

Unlike @stu, I think every so often it is prudent to ask these questions and have an open honest discussion about them. Having good service is no reason not to ask these questions, perhaps these services can be delivered at the same level for less?

I still support the study. And I am also appreciative the MPFD has backed off their original stance of circling the wagons to cooperating per the letter from the Chief. Thank goodness they are not blindly following their renegade board member(s).

Thanks Chief S, and thanks Atherton Council.Looks like cooler heads are prevailing.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2016 at 6:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Move On should know that I was the Board Member who recommended the action that the Chief took today.

The standard measure for fire service performance is not cost per call but cost per resident PROTECTED. MPFPD performs quite well when measured against other comparable sized fire districts.

And when you run the elementary school numbers Atherton residents pay well over $10 million more than they receive in services and the cost per student is prably over $30,000/year.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2016 at 6:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: "Carpenter, Peter" <pcarpenter@menlofire.org>
Subject: Data for all of our jurisdictions
Date: October 28, 2016 at 4:48:14 PM PDT
To: "Schapelhouman, Harold"

Given Congresswoman Eshoo’s 27 Oct letter I urge that we compile a list of ALL the runs in the MPFPD for the most recently available 12 month period and immediately send that to all four jurisdictions and to Cong Eshoo. Our letter of transmittal should advise the recipients that they are legally obligated to not disseminate any personal information included in this data. We should thank Congresswoman Eshoo for her intervention in this situation.

Congresswoman Eshoo is inaccurately casting the Fire District as the bad actor in this situation and she swears that Atherton does not want any Fire District revenues. If we immediately release the above data then she is left with ensuring that Atherton does not want our money.


Peter Carpenter


9 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 4, 2016 at 6:29 pm

How interesting that you should bring up the School District, Stu. I was just looking at how local property taxes flow to schools. And I tripped over something interesting about the Fire District.

Earlier I’d stayed out of this cat fight because (a) I hate cat fights and (b) a quick’n’dirty analysis suggested that, yes, Atherton was effectively subsidizing EPA’s use of fire services. Across the country (and, indeed, the world) it is bog standard for wealthier local areas to subsidize poorer ones, just as more expensive houses subsidize less expensive ones. That is the appeal of property (i.e., wealth) taxes vs. parcel or poll taxes.

However, as I dug through each and every Tax Rate Area in the school district, dutifully adjusting their allocations for redevelopment and ERAF (honestly, why DO I do this?), and adding it all up, I found that the Fire Department collects a substantially higher percentage of our local property taxes than the two cities.

Not just a smidge, but about 40% more. And, indeed, that their property tax allocation was out of line with the averages shown by the county (of which they are a part). But, being unlike [They-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named], I didn’t jump to any immediate conclusions but thunked a bit.

Cities have other sources of revenue, thunked I, and hared off to the excellent CaliforniaCityFinance website and poked around in there.

Presentations on their website, along with an extremely detailed study, “Service Responsibilities & Operating Expenses - California Cities,” suggest that municipal expenditures for police are generally (significantly) greater than for Fire/EMT. On average, cities tend to spend about 45% of their revenue on police, vs. 20% on fire/EMT.

Indeed, of 255 “full service” cities in their study of cost-per-resident for different functions, only 19 spent more on fire/EMT than on police. (Two of them, FYI, were Hillsborough and Burlingame, which spent almost exactly the same on each function.) I looked only at full-service cities — where the city council is making the allocation decision. Those hard decisions seemed like a reasonable gauge of what the balance should be.

That said, “cities” in general are not the same as Menlo Park and Atherton (indeed, Compton spends four times as much on fire/EMT as on police … and precious little on either), so then I went to the Menlo Park budget. A quick perusal suggested that about a third of Menlo Park’s General Fund revenue comes from property taxes … and about a third of Menlo Park’s General Fund expenditure is spent on Police — about $17 million-ish each. Then I looked at Atherton, where the town collects about $8 million in property taxes and spends about $7 million on police.

Somewhere in here, I realized that there were, to quote Princess Diana, “… three of us in this marriage.” First of all, there is some amount of money that it costs to provide fire/emt services to a set of citizens. Within that, there is an internal subsidy that richer citizens typically pay to support their poorer brethren. But finally, I think there’s a good indication in the numbers that MPFPD got very, very lucky when the Prop 13 dice fell. Instead of getting roughly the same proportion as our cities, it got a lot more.

This explains why MPFPD is able to build buildings (and, indeed, a museum) with their property tax allocation, while everyone else has to pass parcel taxes and facilities bonds.

So, whenever someone involved with the Fire District piously intones, “Live within your means,” make sure you hear, “Let them eat cake.” Since they got theirs. With frosting.

Incidentally, our local school percentage (MPCSD with Sequoia, the County Office of Education, and the Community College district) receives almost exactly the 43% county average shown by the Controller’ Office. Just sayin’.



2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2016 at 6:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I found that the Fire Department collects a substantially higher percentage of our local property taxes than the two cities. "

And the school districts get even MORE and they serve less than the 100% of the population as does the Fire District.

How many people do you know that use a private fire service vs the almost 50 % of Atherton students who attend private schools?


4 people like this
Posted by moveon
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 4, 2016 at 8:55 pm

@Jennifer Bestor.

Thank you for taking the time to do this fact finding. I think its becoming clear why the MPFD is not looking forward to having this type of analysis done on their program.

@PC said: If we immediately release the above data then she is left with ensuring that Atherton does not want our money.

And it really has nothing to do with someone stealing "their" money.

Good thing Chief S. has such good council.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2016 at 9:02 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Jennifer - Thank you for joining this conversation.

What is the total cost to Atherton residents of elementary schools including parcel taxes?

What is the benefit to Atherton residents of elementary school districts on a per Atherton student basis?


4 people like this
Posted by moveon
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 4, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Jennifer - remember this blog concerns Congress Rep, Eshoo's agreement that looking into the MPFD costs is a legitimate thing for Town Reps to do. Don't let others drag you into the spin of pointing fingers at others thereby muddying the waters surrounding the issue at hand in this blog. Public schools are not replaceable by other entities, fire services are. Thanks again though great info.


4 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Thanks, moveon. You are SO right about the morass of finger pointing here on Town Square. Just wanted to add some data specifically about MPFPD that might help clarify the issue(s).

And scoop up a little data, too! So interesting that, while MPFPD serves the Atherton population of about 7,200, it only services about 517 incidents a year (a 7%* service rate). Or, looked at on a parcel basis, services about 20%* of all properties (of which there are 2,634).

But, perhaps, many people are choosing to deal with their {cooking fire, confined to container} and alarm/detector malfunctions privately.

* Assuming in both cases there were no recidivists requiring multiple visits.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 5, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is what happens when someone who is ignorant of an issue attempt to comment on that issue.

Fire Protection means exactly that - not fire response.

We pay for a broad range of fire PROTECTION services including fire response, emergency medical response, plan review, code enforcement, CERT training - a very long list.


5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 5, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Jennifer:

using your logic, unless everyone's house catches fire and requires a response we're not getting our monies worth.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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